Friday, August 29, 2008

On the problem of cutting: The secret under the sleeve

Writer Amy Sondova, a former student and now friend of mine, has expertise in many areas including the problem of cutting. Playing on my friendship with her I asked if she would write here just a little on the topic. Here’s what she wrote (following her bio):

Who is Amy? Amy Sondova is a writer specializing in media writing, including interviews and reviews, as well as blogging. Having interviewed over 30 of the top musicians, writers, and speakers in the Christian media, Amy has also written countless columns, reviews, and articles on various topics including mental illness, self-injury, working with teenagers, and Christianity. As well as holding a B.A. in communications, Amy holds a M.A. in biblical counseling, and has worked as a professional therapist. You can visit Amy’s blog at or check out her online e-zine,, a faith-based site focusing on God, culture, music, mental health, and photography.

She’s a cutter — one of the many in a growing community of self-mutilators who wear their pain, anger, and frustration by cutting various parts of their bodies with sharp objects. You would not know she’s a cutter to look at her; she smiles broadly, perhaps a little too broadly at times. She seems normal if not a little melancholy. But look in her eyes and then you will see her torment. You can always tell a cutter by the lack of luster in her eyes.

Cutting is a form of self-injury – the act of purposely injuring oneself using a sharp object such as a razor, scissors, knife, etc. In addition to cutting, self-injury also includes carving, scratching, branding, marking, picking and pulling skin and hair, burns or abrasions, biting, and head banging. Most self-mutilators are between the ages of 11 to 30 and 97% are female.

Not only is cutting a stress relieving coping mechanism, but the physical pain creates a sense of livelihood, and most times physical pain is dull compared to the piercing pain in her soul. No one can see her inner turmoil, so she has transformed her emotions onto her flesh to make you and everyone else understand that she is hurting.

Cutting is not usually an act of suicide. One cutter wrote on her website, “I don’t want to die. I self-injure to stay alive, to deal with the unbearable. If I wanted to die, then I wouldn’t be here now” (Secret Shame, 2004.)

Along with sexual and other types of abuse, there are several mental disorders associated with self-injurious behavior, which include borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder. Remember, even if an individual suffers from a mental illness along with her cutting, she is more than her diagnosis. She is human being created in the image of God.

The only hope for a cutter lies in God because no one can ever understand the pain except for Him. He sees the inner torments and can provide relief. There is no hope attached to the end of the razor blade … only the manifestation of a tortured soul. Self-mutilation is still taboo in many churches today, but as their forms fill our pristine halls, the church cannot cover its eyes any longer. We must be prepared to minister to what many are calling “the new anorexia” before a generation mutilates itself beyond recognition.

[Dr. Phil Monroe]

What are we to do with our stories of pain and mistreatment by other Christians?

Its no revelation that Christians hurt each other in some very serious ways. While I believe that more people have been loved by Christians than hurt, the painful reality is that we can do so much damage. Hence we have books such as Dwight Carlson’s, Why do Christians shoot their wounded. Here’s what often happens. We tell the stories to others. There is something good and something bad about our telling of our stories.

What do telling our stories of being hurt, wronged, misunderstood, misrepresented, oppressed, rejected, etc. do for us? What does it do to our listeners? These are important questions. Here are some bullet responses by me:

1. Telling the truth to another and being heard and understood on top of that provides healing. When the body of Christ attends to the wounds of its members, there are wonderful opportunities for healing, forgiveness, repentance, justice, reconciliation.

2. But why am I telling THIS person. Am I looking for a healing response or for someone to validate my bitterness, to encourage my sinful anger and my unwillingness to confront the wounder? Is it gossip? What do I want/desire/expect from this person who has just heard my story?

3. Do I tell the story in a way that colors all those who might think similarly to the person who has wounded me. Example, not all of those who value postmodern challenges to modernity are on a slippery slope to relativism. Not all of those who believe that women should not be in pastoral ministry are wife beaters. But do we tell stories that castigate all?

4. How do I respond to these stories from others? Do I undermine by minimizing the pain? Do I counter it with my own story that shows that my own wounds are worse? Do I say nothing? Do I see overgeneralizations and ignore the parts that are true about me or at least gives the impression of truth? Can I own what I need to own without being overly concerned about being misunderstood myself? Or do I get defensive?

Stories of being victimized help others to understand our experiences and to enter our world. But stories also can function like agent orange and burn everything in sight. How do we know what to do for our own best health and the consideration of those around us?

What about the offender? What’s the difference between a prophet and a slanderer? In the mind of the offender, he/she is a prophet, God's representative espousing God's words.

A prophet names things and people (especially opponents) in a way that they would agree or approve. A slanderer uses names to disparage and to smear opponents, even those who might barely be related to the issues at hand. (Scot McKnight, in a recent presentation at Westminster Seminary, offers some good advice in this area when talking about emerging/missional church authors and their critics. When you describe your opponents, you ought to do so in a way that the opponents says, “that’s me.”). A prophet does not stoop to build straw men.

A prophet highlights viewpoints in order to point out their possible logical conclusions while a slanderer takes another’s position to an extreme and paints the person as intending the outcome or so foolish not to see the result.

While pointing out possible outcomes, a prophet is still able to describe these outcomes with complexity and shading while the slanderer merely paints everything in black and white.

A prophet points to a better way, creative solutions, risky but realistic options while a slanderer wastes no effort trying to provide solutions, but is satisfied with producing only criticisms and tired stereotypes.

[Phil Monroe]

Unusual Time Saving Tips

Most pastors could easily fill dozens of extra hours a week with productive ministry — if they simply had more time. I’ll share a few of my slightly weird time saving tips.

1. I’ll Meet You in Your Office

When you need to do a quick face to face meeting with another staff member, tell them you’ll swing by their office. When you’ve covered everything important, you can politely leave — the meeting is over.

If someone is in your office, the person may not know when the meeting is over. A quick, few-minute meeting can linger and bleed over into longer and less important conversations. When you’re in someone else’s office, you can politely exit much easier than you can ask someone to leave your office.

2. Let’s Have Lunch in My Office

Eating out can be a huge time waster. (I’m not saying that having a nice, long lunch isn’t occasionally important, necessary, or enjoyable.) Travel time to many restaurants takes 15 to 30 minutes (or more). Many restaurant meals can take 45 minutes to an hour. A simple lunch can easily eat an hour and a half of your day.

I suggest some other options:

- If you don’t have a lunch appointment, consider bringing lunch from home. Not only can you save money but also time. You can eat in a few minutes in your office and continue working.
- If you don’t have a lunch appointment and didn’t bring your lunch, you might ask another team member to bring you a sandwich if he or she is going out.
- If someone invites you to lunch, you might suggest they join you in your office. If you have an assistant, he or she can grab lunch for you; or you can order-in for delivery. You can spend 45 minutes or an hour of quality time with someone without leaving your office. (If you invite someone to lunch, you’ll probably prefer to honor them and travel to a place that is convenient for them.)

3. Plan for Shorter Appointments

For some reason, when someone schedules an appointment with a pastor, they generally assume it will be a one hour appointment.

Most one hour appointments could be handled in much less time.

Years ago, I shortened my appointments to 45 minutes. We’d explain ahead of time that I have 45 minutes allotted for the meeting. No one complained. We got to the important stuff a lot faster.

After some time, I shortened most meetings to 30 minutes and some to 10 or 15. It is amazing how much important ground you can cover when both parties understand how much time you have to work with and you get right to the important issues.

It also helps to back appointments up to each other. If you have a 1:00 p.m. appointment, you might schedule your next one at 1:45 instead of 2:00. When some people want to go past their time, someone else can politely interrupt and explain that your next appointment is waiting.

4. Do Fewer Meetings

Most people in ministry do way too many meetings.

Instead of scheduling a typical 1 or 2 hour meeting, you might try a 15 minute touch-base meeting. You may cover even more in that brief time.

Or better yet, cut the frequency of your meetings in half. Instead of meeting weekly, try meeting every other week. If that is not possible, you might cancel 1 of 4 meetings a month.

Doing fewer meeting forces you to think further ahead and encourages better planning and intentional communication.

5. Don’t Take Incoming Calls

On very busy days, you might choose not to immediately receive incoming calls.

When I’m crunched for time, I’ll give my cell phone to my assistant. She’ll screen calls for me all day. Generally she can find out what a person needs. When I come out of the office, she might ask me a few quick questions and she can respond to my calls for me.

Instead of handling calls as they come in, you can return them all at once. I like to return calls when I’m traveling in the car making that time more productive.

What suggestions do you have on this subject? (Click "comments" below.)

[by Craig Groeschel -]

Seven Qualities a Leader Must Have

As I have been thinking through my personal leadership journey lately and trying to figure out who God has called me to be and what He’s called me to do … I have narrowed my focus down to seven areas that I believe are essential for effective leadership in the church.

#1 - Passion

I’m not talking about false excitement over an event that you would not attend if you were not on the payroll at the church!

But rather raw, unfiltered, emotional and unapologetic passion … a white hot fire inside that consumes, controls and configures us into who Jesus has called us to be and what He’s called us to do!

Be warned–passionate people make for easy targets because no one has to guess what they stand for! However, passion, if handled correctly, can be one of the best friends a leader can have.

#2 - A Desire To Please God

One of the first verses I ever memorized was Galatians 1:10. I remember reading it and feeling like it literally jumped off the page … and something inside of me kept screaming, “You are going to need this verse for yourself if you are going to be truly successful in ministry.”

A true leader in church understands that God is our Leader … and in a passionate pursuit to please Him you and I will often disappoint people.

We can’t please committee’s and Christ – a choice must be made.

#3 - Wisdom

James 1:5 has been a verse that I have also had to cling onto as a leader! What a promise!
God has called us to wisdom … so … as leaders I feel that we need to be doing as much as possible to learn … that means going to conferences, reading books … and not being afraid to meet with and learn from people who “aren’t like us!”

What are you personally doing right now to grow and develop yourself as a leader? To add to your wisdom?

I am in the process of connecting with other church leaders … in the past several weeks I’ve been involved in numerous learning environments with people who know SO MUCH MORE than me … and God has used each experience to shape me in an awesome way.

If all we tell our people is what we know, and we lead out of our limited knowledge, never seeking wisdom from others or God, then we will raise up some very shallow people.

#4 - Courage

I don’t think the tag “leader” should be put on anyone who hasn’t had to make tough decisions on a consistent basis.

I once heard Andy Stanley say that a leader isn’t necessarily the first person to see an opportunity, but rather the first person to act on what they see.

So true! There are lots and lots of people who see what is wrong with the world, church, etc … however, very few are actually willing to do anything about it.

Leaders step up and make the hard calls … even when it’s unpopular.

On a side note – courage is NOT the absence of fear!

However, courage is KNOWING what God has called you to … and then DOING it … not knowing the outcome … but KNOWING who is in control of the outcome!

#5 - Humility

This is a tough one because … well … one cannot actually brag that they are humble!

Too many times in the past I know that this was a quality that was NOT in me! I wanted the credit for all of “my ideas!” If something went right and I was involved – I wanted people to know about it. If an element of service programming went well and it was my idea … I took the credit.

And then one day I had a conversation with John Maxwell that ROCKED MY WORLD … he said to me, “You are where you are for two reasons. The first is the favor of God. The second is the giftedness of God. And, please understand that God didn’t owe you either of these. You are where you are because of Him!”

When it comes right down to it … I don’t have good ideas – God gives them to me. I don’t have the ability to think or act … OR LEAD … unless HE leads me!

John 15:5 is SO true … and I have no right to boast in anything that I feel like I accomplish!

If a leader doesn’t care who gets the credit … but is obsessed with God getting the glory – awesome things can happen!

#6 - Honesty

One of the things the corporate world has seen lately is a lack of integrity … and the lie that “this is my life and how I live it doesn’t really impact anyone else” has been exposed over and over and over again!

As leaders – we’ve got to be honest with …

- OURSELVES - how are you doing? Really? Can you keep up the pace you have right now? What changes need to be made?
- OTHERS - is everyone around you doing a good job? Is there a tough conversation that needs to be had–but you won’t because you are afraid of the outcome?
- GOD - Is life and ministry REALLY “all about Him?”

#7 - Simplicity

I once heard Ed Young say, “If you want to impress me as a leader – don’t tell me what you’re doing, tell me what you’re NOT doing!”

I think a leader who is worth his (or her) salt will admit that they are not good at everything … and as a result they will stop trying to be.

Reality is that everyone of us only do a few things well … and our leadership will be maximized when we focus on what God has gifted us and called us to be rather than what everyone else in the church expects us to be!I can’t do everything … but I can do something … and the something that I can do … I will do!

What is on your plate that you KNOW you aren’t good at? You hate it? Go ahead and admit it because everyone around you already knows it and are probably praying that you will stop it anyway!

That’s about it … oh yeah ... if you haven’t read this book by Andy Stanley on point #7–PLEASE–DO IT! Seriously! It will set you free!


September 11 - Cry Out America

Mark Your Calendar NOW!

Noon at your County Courthouse.

September 11, 2008

FAST YOUR LUNCH -- Unite with other Christians at your county courthouse -- Pray publicly for a new Christ Awakening in our generation -- Be a part of Cry Out America!

OUR NATION is at a defining moment. Once in a generation a people arrives at a crossroads of decision, a fork demanding a choice. Sometimes the nature of that choice determines the future for their children; but at other times nothing less than the very life of that people is at stake. We are at just such a crossroads of the second kind. For the last 40 plus years our nation has increasingly drifted lazily toward the falls of godless postmodern values, rejecting God's standards in favor of a reinterpreted subjective morality. Soon we will reach the precipice of no return unless we act quickly. On one level the events of 9/11/01 awakened us to the threat of radical Islamic fundamentalism, but the greater threat confronting us is our departure from God. Therefore on 9/11/08 the American church is issuing a new spiritual wake up call to our nation. Cry Out America is a response to Joel’s 2600 year old prescription for revival. On Thursday, September 11, 2008 we will return to the Lord as we: "Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly ... and cry out to the Lord." Joel 1:14.

Get involved now and join us in your county!


Awakening America Alliance brings Christians Together in United Prayer Across
All 50 States on Historic Day in America.

The Alliance is mobilizing Christians to participate in CRY OUT AMERICA in all 3,141 counties in the nation and endeavors to have a COA county coordinator in place at each courthouse to facilitate this time of prayer for their community, friends and family, and for the spiritual condition of our nation.

Read More from our latest press release.

Go Online to find out information on your County's Coordinator and join in the prayer gathering.

It will re-air on September 11th! Look for times soon!

CRY OUT AMERICA will host a special evening service in New York City on the eve of September 11th. This evening program will include a line-up of extraordinary Christian leaders and 9/11 first responders and will be aired on God TV to over 400 million people internationally. It will also have elements of worship from top Christian artists and concentrated prayer for the heart condition of the nation, repentance and revival.